Looking for a wonderful fall bike ride this year? If you are heading out to Cabela’s in Hamburg, Berks County take along your bike and go for a ride on the nearby Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). A section of the trail known as the John B. Bartram Trail Section is only partly completed but this cindered 6-mile wooded section offers some nice scenery running between Hamburg and Auburn along the side of Blue Mountain, above the Schuylkill River and a rail line.
There are plans to eventually expand the trail farther, but at the present time trail users must turn around at the fenced off deteriorating Auburn Bridge which crosses over the Schuylkill River. Plans to expand the trail have been in the works for a decade now but with lack of funding it may take a long time to complete if ever.
The heavily-shaded and well maintained Bartram Trail varies from 12 feet wide to a narrow 4 feet at a few sections. The trail is popular with bikers, walkers and joggers but even on busy weekends the trail does not get overly crowded. It is a slight incline going uphill. On a mountain bike one can easily ride at an 8-12 mph pace to the north and at 10-14 mph heading back down the path. There are mile markers and plenty of benches along the trail if you need a break.
The trail begins in Berks County and goes into Schuylkill County. Stay on the trail as private property runs continuously on both sides. “No Trespassing” signs are abundant. Also, it passes by State Game Lands, so wear orange clothing during hunting season.
The trail begins at the 2-mile long, 252-acre wetlands area known as the Kernsville Dam Recreation Area (KDRA) where there is parking for about 50 cars. There are no restrooms but a port-a-potty is available. There are fishing, kayaking and bird watching opportunities here. Hunting is allowed within the Recreation Area so please wear orange clothing during hunting season.
The Kernsville Dam area is maintained as a wildlife sanctuary by Blue Mountain Wildlife. The dam and nearby basin area were part of an effort to remove coal silt accumulated from upriver mining during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Dogs, horses and other pets are welcome, but must remain under the control of the owners at all times.
If you have time walk down the Cabela’s Wetland Trail and investigate the Kernsville Dam on the Schuylkill River. Also, go down the 1-mile Therman Madeira Switchback Trail which passes under I-78 and leads towards downtown Hamburg.
Directions: From Route 61N, (across from Cabela’s) turn right at Jetson Drive, right at Industrial Drive, then left at Kernsville Dam Road (after crossing single railroad tracks look for desilting monument).
There is also access to the trail from a parking area on SGL 110. From PA 61 at Deer Lake in Schuylkill County, go west on PA 895 toward Auburn. Turn left at the first street in Auburn after the railroad overpass, this is Front Street. Continue south on Front Street, then left onto Bear Creek Road. Turn left onto Pine Lane (T703) which is a dirt lane to the parking area.
The Bartram Trail begins across from the KDRA parking area. About 1 mile after heading north on the SRT you come to the Warren Thru Truss Bridge which was built between 1890 and 1905 and crosses a rail-line below. It is a really neat looking bridge to see and to ride on.
Farther up the trail you pass under Route 61. A steep section of the Appalachian Trail crosses the trail near Port Clinton. Also, at Port Clinton you can view the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad Train Station down below the trail.
When you reach the 6-mile marker at the fenced off bridge turn around and head back towards Hamburg while enjoying the beautiful fall foliage.
There is another completed 1.5-mile part of the Bartram Trail Section a few miles north of Auburn at Landingville where parking is available at the Tunnel Road Trailhead. This is a mostly wooded section that is situated along a remnant of the Schuylkill Canal. It also is the location of the first canal tunnel built in the United States. Not much is left of the tunnel except for steep earthen berms where it once existed. Also, the Landingville Marsh is located here, a very popular birding area.